Romney failing to catch fire in Michigan

LANSING, Mich. -- It's just three days until the Michigan primary, which is crucial to the hopes of Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum in the Republican presidential sweepstakes.

A loss in Michigan would be a major setback to either Romney or Santorum because, at this stage in the race, it's all about momentum.

At a speech in Detroit Friday, Romney said he was uniquely positioned to beat President Obama.

"I not only think I have the best chance, I think i have the only chance," Romney declared, adding with a chuckle, "Maybe I'm overstating it a bit!"

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Maybe. But Romney is pushing electability as a selling point as the days wind down to Michigan's contest.

And yet, Romney's Detroit event suffered from what politicians call "bad optics."

It wasn't just the demonstrators outside protesting his position against the auto industry bailouts. Away from their taunts, there Romney stood, delivering a speech to the city's Economic Club -- surrounded by 65,000 empty seats at Ford Field.

His campaign explained that it was the only venue that could handle the demand to hear him. Romney himself told the crowd, "I guess we had a hard time finding a place big enough to meet. And this certainly is!"

But there were plenty of empty seats even within the rows claimed by the 1,200 in attendance.

Polls in Michigan show the race remains neck-and-neck between Romney and Rick Santorum.

The former Pennsylvania senator was in Michigan, as well, on Friday, greeting voters at a fish fry and, before that, complaining to an interviewer on CNN about Romney's campaign tactics, saying, "Everybody that's ever been up against Mitt Romney -- he's doing what he's doing in Michigan -- he has super PAC out there, outspending whoever it is by a huge amount of money, trying to misrepresent their record as well as (what) he's done, which is misrepresent his."

Romney's war chest is unquestionably richer than Santorum's, so it's no surprise that he's using it to his advantage.

But, for some reason, it hasn't translated into a big or comfortable lead for Romney here in his native state.

To see the Dean Reynolds report, click on the video in the player above. In addition, National Journal White House Correspondent Major Garrett spoke with "CBS This Morning: Saturday" co-host Rebecca Jarvis about how big a blow a loss in Michigan would deal to Romney. To see that interview, click on the video below:>

  • Dean Reynolds

    Dean Reynolds is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Chicago.